But for the average person focused on retirement planning and financial stability, is it time to consider investing in cryptocurrency?
The answer is complicated, so we asked financial advisors for their crypto advice, and here’s what 10 of them are telling clients. In an emerging field with few set rules and norms, we discovered some universal truths that everyone should know before putting money in cryptocurrency.
First of all, financial advisors say a healthy dose of skepticism is a crucial place to start, and you should never invest in crypto if it takes away from other goals and financial fundamentals like paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or maxing out your retirement accounts.
As difficult as it may be, do not become seduced by the intrigue and allure of this new technology, says Stanfield. Instead, employ the same mindset you bring to your regular investment strategy.
Here’s what else the experts want you to know about cryptocurrency investing:
Be Prepared for Loss
As with any investment, financial gains are far from guaranteed with cryptocurrency investing. For some financial advisors, crypto looks more like a lottery ticket than an investment strategy.
That means you should only put in what you’re OK with losing. “On a spectrum between gambling and investing, I think it’s closer to the former,” says Matt Morris, principal advisor at Sanderling Finance in Columbia, South Carolina.
As a high-risk, high-reward investment, keep any crypto investments in perspective amid your broader goals and finances. As with certain types of gambling, “you have a high chance of losing it all, but a small chance of winning it big,” says Nate Nieri, a CFP with Modern Money Management in San Diego, California. “Just don’t gamble an amount that would burden your family or prevent you from achieving your goals” if you lost it all.
Steer Clear if You’re Risk Averse
If you’re risk averse, crypto isn’t the investment for you.“How well can you sleep at night knowing that this is an emerging asset class with high volatility? And if you were to wake one morning to find that crypto has been banned by the developed nations and it became worthless, would you be OK?” asks Stanield.
If you’re going to be constantly stressing about your crypto investment, or tempted to change your investments in light of the volatility that comes with crypto, then you’re better off putting your money in a more stable investment, according to Stanfield.
“I believe it is still in its infancy stage, and just like any new fund or IPO, there is a level of uncertainty about the future that I’m not ready to stomach,” says Alajahwon Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Wealth Management in Lafayette, Louisiana. “I believe it … is an unnecessary risk at this point for my clients to reach their financial goals.”
There’s also far less historical data available about cryptocurrency to help investors make informed decisions — unlike conventional ETF and index/mutual funds. Crypto investors face additional risk in the form of poor or inaccurate trade data, competition among fellow investors, theft, loss of wallet passwords, supply and demand issues, government regulation, and energy consumption concerns, says Chelsea Rude, a CFP at Rude Wealth Advisory in Olney, Illinois.
“Most importantly for investors, there is a lack of a well designed and tested way to value the assets,” Rude says. This means crypto investors are essentially going in blind, and subjecting themselves to the uncertainty that comes with any new business or investment
Know Why You’re Interested In the First Place
Some people see crypto as an emerging investment, while others see it as an interesting new global currency you can use instead of the U.S. dollar or other international currencies. But whether crypto has long-term staying power on either front is still uncertain.
“I strongly believe the vast majority of people who own crypto currency are doing so for all the wrong reasons and misunderstanding what they are truly buying,” says Ben Lies, chief investment officer at Delphi Advisers.
Many experts are concerned about people dumping their money into crypto without real understanding of the area. Do your own research, and make sure you’re thinking about your investment in the right way.
“Hype and excitement around the space are not reasons for inclusion into any portfolio, but I believe there are compelling reasons to consider cryptocurrencies,” says James Vermillion, owner of Vermillion Private Wealth in Lexington, Kentucky. “When discussing crypto with clients I emphasize education and understanding. It’s important to note that there are thousands of cryptocurrencies in existence and they are not created equally. Due diligence is important, just as it is when looking at stocks or other investment vehicles.”
Nieri warns those who see Bitcoin as a currency to think about what that means for investing. “I don’t typically trade or have a currency hedge as part of my investment strategy. Would you have ever thought about trading dollars for Euros as an investment? In order for Bitcoin to be a legitimate currency, the world’s governments would need to accept it as a global currency, something that has a remote likelihood,” Nieri says.
Keep Crypto In Its Place
“What I am sharing for [my clients] to do is build their future financial pie with investments such as stocks and bonds. If there is extra money they want to play with, buying crypto is an option,” says Eric Powell, financial advisor and founder of the Future Mill.
Make sure your overall investment portfolio is predominantly made up of conventional investments like stocks and bonds, says Powell. But within any crypto investments you might have, experts recommend sticking with the big names.
“I personally do not go beyond Bitcoin and or Ethereum,” says Michael Kelly, a CFA at Switchback Financial in Madison, Connecticut. “I feel those two have a bit more of an established base and feel the risk of other coins becomes too significant.”
Decentralized finance (commonly referred to as DeFi) is a blockchain-based form of finance that does not rely on central financial intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, or banks to offer traditional financial instruments, and instead utilizes smart contracts on blockchains, the most common being Ethereum. DeFi platforms allow people to lend or borrow funds from others, speculate on price movements on a range of assets using derivatives, trade cryptocurrencies, insure against risks, and earn interest in savings-like accounts.
DeFi uses a layered architecture and highly composable building blocks. Some DeFi applications promote high interest rates but are subject to high risk. By October 2020, over $11 billion (worth in cryptocurrency) was deposited in various decentralized finance protocols, which represented more than a tenfold growth during the course of 2020. As of January 2021, approximately $20.5 billion was invested in DeFi.
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